John Bartlett Fearing

(Pasquotank County)

Featured Character – 1861-1862

John B. Fearing

Courtesy of the Museum of the Albemarle, J. Howard Stevens Collection

Although born in Philadelphia on August 19, 1826, John Bartlett Fearing grew up in Elizabeth City.  His Harvard-educated father, Isaiah Fearing, owned a shipyard and large mercantile business.  After his father’s death in 1858, John B. Fearing took over Isaiah Fearing’s general store on the corner of Road and Church Streets.  According to the 1860 Census, Fearing owned more than $6,500 in personal assets, including one fifty-three year old slave.  At the outbreak of the Civil War, local volunteers elected Fearing captain of “The John Harvey Guards,” which eventually became Company I, 17th North Carolina Infantry.  Hastily ordered to defend Hatteras Inlet from Union attack, Fearing later described the battle in a letter to his wife, Emma Bradford Fearing:

“We returned the shots until we had no ammunition, then retreated under the heaviest shelling any man ever saw; we were compelled to run and fall at almost every step to escape the fragments. Some of our men were killed, some wounded, some cut off.”

Captured at Hatteras, Fearing spent a short time in several Union prison camps before his exchange and release.  In 1863, Fearing abruptly resigned his commission and returned home.  He took the oath of allegiance, and even paid $2 in federal income tax to support the ongoing war.  Fearing continued in business as a grocer although the 1870 Census listed his net worth at little more than half its 1860 value.  After Emma Fearing died in 1867, John B. Fearing married Mollie Elizabeth Commander, niece of Cedar Vale’s Mary Elizabeth Commander, in 1879.  John Bartlett Fearing died on January 14, 1888.